It can be challenging to take proper care of your skin, even under the best of circumstances. But in winter months, when the weather turns cold and humidity levels drop, keeping your skin hydrated might become even more difficult.
By taking extra care to keep your skin moisturized, you can avoid chapping, itchiness, and cracking.
When your skin doesn’t have enough protective oils, moisture escapes from it. And when there's not enough water in the outermost layer of your skin it becomes dry. This effect can intensify during the winter, when environmental humidity is low.
Other common causes of dry skin include:
- overuse of soap and hot water
- exposure to harsh chemicals
- certain types of skin diseases
On its own, dry skin may not seem like a big deal. But it’s associated with several health problems that could interfere with your daily activities. Dry skin may lead to:
- areas of thickened, rough skin
- painful cracks in your skin
- dermatitis, which involves red, inflamed, and scaly skin
- eczema, which can appear as round, scaly, itchy, and red patches on your skin
- bacterial infection
The first step in treating dry skin is identifying the cause. Winter weather is a common cause of dry skin. But if your skin is extremely dry, you may want to talk to your doctor about other possible issues.
Your doctor may be able to help you discover why your skin is dry and talk with you about how to avoid it. For example, they may advise you to avoid contact with certain products or chemicals.
The following strategies may also help you manage dry skin.
Use less hot water
When you’re trying to rehydrate your skin, it may seem like a good idea to soak it in lots of water. But water can actually make dry skin worse, especially if you use hot, soapy water. Too much washing can strip the protective oils from your skin, leaving it vulnerable to drying.
Keep your baths and showers short — 10 minutes or less — and use warm water rather than hot.
Use minimal soap
Using too much soap can also cause your skin to dry out. Use soap sparingly. Only apply it when and where you need it, such as under your arms, in your groin area, and on your feet. Choose mild, fragrance-free options that are designed to be less drying.
Skin moisturizers are important weapons in your arsenal for fighting dry skin. The right moisturizers can help you treat and prevent dry skin. There are four basic types of moisturizers that are available without a prescription.
Ointment moisturizers tend to trap the most moisture in your skin, but sometimes they can feel greasy. Petroleum jelly (Vaseline) is an example of this type of moisturizer.
Oil moisturizers tend to be less greasy than ointments, but they’re still effective at fighting dry skin. Examples include baby oil, mineral oil, and bath oil.
Cream moisturizers tend to be more popular than other types of ointments or oils because your skin absorbs them more easily. Examples include hand creams.
Lotion moisturizers generally feel the least greasy. But they can be less moisturizing than the other options because of their higher alcohol content.
After you wash your skin, pat it dry. Then apply your ointment, oil, cream, or lotion right away. Moisturizing after washing can help you trap as much moisture as possible in your skin.
If these tips aren’t enough to rehydrate your skin, consider asking your doctor for a referral to a dermatologist. They can help you understand why your skin is dry and how to keep it healthy.